5 ways to make your workouts more challenging!

how to make your workouts more challenging

There’s a shortage of equipment, at least in the stores, during this Corona Situation. Gyms are still closed – sad 🙁 face right, of course for very good reason – for the CORONAVIRUS, in my Cardi B voice! Let’s flatten this curve, sooner rather than later!!  All of us meatheads are missing the iron though – well, at least the access to more weights – heavier loads, if you will.

It’s been about 6 weeks since the Social Distancing order has been in place, which I like to say Physical Distancing, because we can still be social, just from afar!

So, anywhoodle STRONG friend, I wanted to share how you can work with the equipment that you have. Let me tell you, a little will go a long way.

Trust me, I know, I’m a full-time RVer that doesn’t always have access to a gym. My hubs and I travel with a few pieces of equipment. However, we even have less with us at the moment. We did not anticipate that things would be closed for this long.

I know it would be nice to have multiple sets of weights, our beloved barbells, bumper plates, and such, but that’s not the reality of the matter.

So, what can we do, how do we make do, how do we adapt, adjust, pivot, improvise, and modify? How do we make the weights that we have more challenging as we get STRONGER or outgrow them?

Keep reading my STRONG friend…

There are several ways to up-level and challenge yourself with what you have, whether that’s dumbbells, kettlebells, or bands. Maybe you have a barbell with one set of plates – if so I’m jealous, lol! I am missing the garage gym that we had before hitting the road as full-timer RV’erS!

Here are the ways that you can make your workouts more challenging…

1. Time Under Tension Reps (TUT)

With TUT, you have a ton of options to play with. Time under tension means that you will be placing higher demands on the muscles that you are training for a longer period of time during the set that you are doing!

Simply put, you’ll be slowing down the reps.

Time under Tension also includes the 1.5 rep scheme, Tempo reps, also known as Eccentric reps, Pause reps, Drop sets, and Pulsing reps. More on how to apply these to various exercises below…

1.5 reps

The 1.5 rep scheme works for many many exercises. You’ll have a lot of fun with this rep scheme. Basically, what you will be doing is adding a 1/2 rep to every rep that you do.

So for squats, you’ll drop into a squat from the top, and then at the bottom of the squat, you will come 1/2 back up,  then back down, then again to the top to repeat the sequence for the prescribed amount of reps!

For Push-ups: You’ll lower down from the top, come 1/2 way back up, go back down, then all the way back up!

Another one of my favorite ways to do the 1.5 rep scheme is with Romanian Deadlifts. So, you’re gonna set up as you normally would for RDL’s – short for Romanian Deadlifts. Quick note, RDL’s start from the top. You’ll hinge back into your hips until the dumbbells come to about below your knees-ish, then you’ll come halfway up (about mid-thigh), then back down, and then all the way to the top (the start position of the RDL). Repeat for reps.

You can employ this rep scheme for so many exercises, Rows, Lunges, Pull-ups/Chin-ups, Bulgarian Split Squats, so on and so forth!

Tempo reps or Eccentric reps:

Tempo reps are fun too. They add a great challenge, as well. You may have heard of them being called eccentric reps. What this means is that you are slowing down the lowering phase of the movement.

So, for a goblet squat, instead of the regular tempo of going down for 1 or 2 counts, you’ll go down to the bottom of the squat for 3-5 seconds.

For push-ups, instead of the regular tempo, you can lower yourself down, again for 3-5 seconds, once at the bottom press back up or drop to the ground and reset at the top. This will depend on your fitness level, but it’s a great way to work on form or bust through a plateau!

Pause reps:

Simply stated, you will pause at the end range of an exercise and hold for 2-5 seconds, more time under tension. I love doing these with squats and pull-ups, You can even do this with banded exercises that we are all doing at home. For example, with Lat Pulldowns, you can pause a bit longer than normal. You’ll definitely feel your back muscles when you pause and slow down the reps!

Drop sets:

Doing Drop sets is a great way to perform more volume in a set. What you will do is start with a heavier weight for a certain amount of reps, say 10-12 reps. Then, after the set is done, you’ll immediately drop down to lower weight with minimal rest and perform 10-12 more reps, so on and so forth. You can also complete two sets of an exercise with a certain weight, then move on to the 3rd set with that same weight with minimal rest and pump out as many reps as you can, then drop the weight (reduce the weight) and go to failure.

So, if you have a few sets of dumbbells, this is will great. Drop sets work great with barbell work too. Try it for back squats; it’s fun, they say.  Lol.

Try this for a fun drop set – Complete “x” amount of squats then drop into squat jumps. This is a super simple way to increase the intensity of your squats when you can’t increase in the load (weight used)!

Pulsing reps:

Another fun one that you can apply to various exercises to increase the time under tension. What you’ll do with Pulsing reps is stay in the lower range of the movement and pulse up and down stay in that bottom-ish position of the movement.


2. Deficit Training (Increase the Range of Motion):

Increasing your range of motion will make the exercise more challenging. When you have to go further down (deeper depth) into an exercise it becomes harder.  Another method is to  start a lift from an elevated position.

For example, with the Bulgarian Split Squats, you can elevate the back and/or front foot and that will increase the range of motion in comparison to having one foot elevated (the back). Doing this will challenge the muscles more!

You can increase your range of motions with push-ups, by placing your hands on blocks, weight plates, kettlebells, and even your dumbbells. In doing so, you’ll be able to drop your chest lower to the ground getting a deeper stretch on the pectoral muscles (pecs on dec).

Another fun deficit training situation is to perform your Deadlifts while standing on blocks or plates. You can do this with Deadlifts from the ground as well as Deadlifts from the top (Romanian Deadlifts). Increasing the range of motion means you will also be recruiting more muscles of the posterior chain as well!

3. Increase your work capacity:

You can increase your work capacity by resting less between work sets. Increasing your workout capacity also includes supersets – completing two exercises back to back, with no rest.

Another option is Giant Sets (completing 3 -5 set for a muscle group). Giant sets are like circuits, but you’ll do it for the one body part, such as legs. So, you would do a Goblet Squat, then right into a Static Lunge, then into Walking Lunges. This is an advanced technique, so tread lightly if you are a beginner.

And then there are Circuits! Circuits are performed by completing 3 -5 exercises back to back, usually with minimal rest between the exercises. Circuits are usually total body workouts where you will do upper and lower body exercises back to back in circuit fashion thus completing more work in a shorter amount of time! Circuit training works really great when you are short on time. Circuits cover the strength and the cardio portion all in one workout.

4. Adding a band to your lifts:

Bands add extra resistance and they also add an increased challenge as you near the end range of the movement. Another added benefit of adding bands to your exercises is that they provide constant tension to the exercises the same way cable machines do at the gym.

I just know you gotta know about the booty bands! Yes, those things you see everyone using on the gram- they are usually placed around folk’s knees or ankles.  You might have heard them called hip circles, glute loop, peach band, etc. They offer a  fantastic way to make your lower body exercises more challenging.

They’re great for activating your glutes during your warm-up prior to lifting as well, as teaching you how to use your glutes during squat!

5. Unilateral Movements (Single limb exercises):

I love, love single limb exercises because you get to train both sides equally and they increase body awareness. My favorite single-leg exercise at the moment is the Single Leg Romanian Deadlift! They’re great for us to implement into our training in the first place because they help to bring up muscle imbalances between our limbs. Working on your single limb strength will help you improve your balance as well. During single-limb exercises, you also get a chance to work your core muscles to a greater degree than bi-lateral movements (using both limbs at the same time)!

If you haven’t implement single-limb exercises into your training there is no time like the present. They will be a challenge for you at first, but in due time you’ll improve and feel stronger overall! So, go on and incorporate them and the cool thing is that you don’t need a ton of weight to reap the benefits of doing single-limb work!

There ya have it, STRONG friends!

During this Corona Situation that we are in, be sure to be patient, adapt, modify, adjust, and improvise your workouts. You can still get it in and maintain your fitness and strength during these times! I know it for a fact because this is not my first rodeo not having access to a gym! #NoGymNoProblem

I am a full-time RVer and when I’m traveling I don’t always have access to a gym. I’ve been a full-time RVing for 3 years now. I know a thing or two when it comes to building effective and efficient workouts with minimal equipment!

So, start to incorporate these training methods into your training now and on-going, even when you return to the gym. You’ll be glad you did. You WILL see strength, muscle improvements, and bust through some plateaus!

And if you need help setting up a training program. Book a connection call with me here. We can set up a customized program that will help you reach your goals.

Also, in the meantime, if you need some workouts that require minimal equipment. You can grab 10 of my Strength Training Circuits here!


strength training circuits

Dumbbell Based Workouts – Minimal Equipment Strength Training Circuits

















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